What To Do When You Don’t Trust a Compliment

In my previous blog post, I discussed how deflecting compliments can undermine your effectiveness as a leader. For some people, it is incredibly difficult to smile and say “thank you” graciously under any circumstance. However, there are times we simply don’t trust the compliment we are receiving.

If a compliment seems to be insincere, questionable or confusing, responding graciously, if at all, can be difficult and awkward. As a leader, you want to demonstrate confidence and control and stop a situation from spinning out of control and possibly lowering morale on your team.

When you find yourself in a “questionable compliment” situation, here’s what to do:

Accept the compliment

Say thank you quickly and move on to another topic, conversation or task. Give yourself time to think over the sincerity of the compliment first before becoming defensive.

Don’t jump to conclusions

Some people are socially awkward and just not very good at complimenting others. Before jumping to conclusions, be sure the complimenter was really being insincere. Ask other people who you trust if they have experienced the same feeling when receiving a compliment from that person.

Start a conversation

Keep an open mind when starting a conversation with the complimenter. Say something like, “I am not sure I interpreted what you were saying correctly. This is what I heard – is that what you meant?”

If the compliment was sincere, you have just developed a much better understanding of that person, how they think, and how they communicate.

If, however, the compliment was insincere and meant to be an insult or make you look bad in front of other people, this is when your leadership skills will be put to good use. Ask the complimenter:

  • Why did you say that?
  • How would you have done things differently during that project?
  • What solutions do you think are better, and why?

By asking for their input, you could turn the situation around from aggressive and confrontational to collaborative and open-minded, thus diffusing a potentially ugly situation.

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